The oppression that people of African descent have suffered in America and around the world in the last 500 years has not only been physical. Great pains were taken in slavery (and in colonialism throughout Africa) to destroy Blacks mentally and psychologically as well. In fact, one could argue that the mental consequences of our enslavement have been the most detrimental and debilitating to us as a people. Such consequences include many Blacks feeling as though they are not as smart, not as moral, not as attractive, or not as capable as Whites.
For at least the first 350 years of our stay here in America, Blacks were subjected to an onslaught of experiences, images, laws and lies that promoted the notion that White people are superior to Black people. There was the daily experience of seeing Whites beat and rule over Blacks; the (false) images of God, his angels and his prophets as exclusively White; the laws that forbade Blacks to read and enjoy even the most basic human rights; and the myths, fabrications and stereotypes that were fed to Blacks on an everyday basis.
The purpose of all of this was the make Blacks believe they deserved to be slaves or at best, second-class citizens. That is intolerable for a Christian because the Bible says, “God is no respecter of persons’’ (Acts 10:34) and that he “does not show favoritism’’ (Galatians 2:6). In other words, there are no second-class citizens in God’s Kingdom. All races and ethnicities are equal in the sight of God.
Perhaps the worst form of mental slavery Blacks were subjected to was the pseudo-theological kind. That is, the kind that was supposedly based on the Bible, the kind that said God had cursed Blacks and ordained them to forever be on the bottom of mankind’s ladder of progress and productivity. There were two major lies told to Blacks to promote this idea: the so-called “Hamitic Theory’’ or “Curse of Ham’’ and the “Mark of Cain.’’ Neither of them was ever in the Bible, but the slave masters told Blacks they were.
Thankfully, these lies are no longer as prominent as they once were, but they still influence the way some people - both Black and White - view the Black race. Also, on college campuses and in prisons, Blacks who are opposed to Christianity and the Bible use those false theories to say the God of the Bible, and the Bible itself, are against Blacks. These lies are major reasons many have been fooled into believing Christianity is “the White man’s religion’’ and why many have rejected the gospel.
For people of African descent to truly reach their God-given potential, the strongholds created by these myths must be demolished. They must be demolished in the minds of Whites as well because, while they would never admit it publicly, many Whites, including some professing Christians, undoubtedly harbor foolish notions of White superiority and Black inferiority. This is evident in the inequities that are still tolerated and/or justified within American society today.
The Word of God obliterates negative and ungodly mentalities and beliefs. So let’s get it started:
THE HAMITIC THEORY (CURSE OF HAM)
The “Hamitic Theory’’ was not a mere twisting of the Scripture but an absolute abuse of it, a complete fabrication. Various Bible dictionaries define “Ham’’ as meaning “hot, swarthy (dark-skinned), brown, black.” That, plus the lands that Ham and his descendants are said to have populated in Genesis 10, tells us that Ham is the progenitor of the Black race. Aware that Ham and his descendants were Black, White preachers taught Blacks during slavery that their skin color and other racial features, as well as their status as slaves of White people, were a result of a “Curse of Ham.’’
It was supposedly based on Genesis 9:18-27, where Noah got drunk and then his son Ham “saw the nakedness of his father’’ (v 22). When Noah awoke from his drunken state, he issued what White racists referred to as the “Curse of Ham.’’ This theory became so established and widespread that it was still being taught in some American seminaries in the latter part of the 20th century.
The noted African-American pastor Dr. Tony Evans, head of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas, once wrote about being taught the Curse of Ham by a White minister as a teenager. The minister told the young Evans the curse was the reason Blacks must suffer humiliation and oppression at the hands of Whites. That was as recently as the 1960s, so there are certainly Blacks and Whites who are still influenced by this lie today.
Of course, there is no truth to the “Curse of Ham.’’ It is easily debunked by Scripture, and we’ll do so in a moment with the five Biblical facts that follow. But first let’s look at the verses in question (Genesis 9:20-25):
”And Noah began to be a farmer, and he planted a vineyard. Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness.
So Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done to him. Then he said:
“Cursed be Canaan;
A servant of servants
He shall be to his brethren.”
Ok, so can the above Scripture be used to justify the enslavement or mistreatment of Black people? Not at all. Reverend Wayne Perryman, in his book “The 1993 Trial on the Curse of Ham,’’ did an outstanding job of proving (with the help of 442 Scriptures) the fallacy of this so-called curse.
1. First, Noah cursed Ham’s youngest son, Canaan, not Ham himself; so there most certainly is not, and never was, a “Curse of Ham.’’ There are 17 references to Ham in the Bible and none of them link him to a curse, wrongdoing, or sin. Nor were Ham’s three other children, who were obviously Black, cursed. Their names were Cush (Ethiopia), Mizraim (Egypt) and Phut (Libya or Somalia). Therefore, Canaan’s being cursed would not constitute a curse on all Black people. In fact, Canaan’s brothers all went on to do tremendous things, both in Biblical and extra-Biblical history. Ethiopia and Egypt founded the world’s first two great civilizations after the flood and were both instrumental in early Christian history. Ethiopia was one of the first nations the gospel was preached in and after adopting Christianity as its state religion in the 4th century, it is one of the world’s oldest Christian countries. Acts Chapter 8 tells us the gospel reached Ethiopia before it reached Europe, and history tells us the Apostle Matthew was a missionary in Ethiopia. The Apostle Mark preached the gospel in Egypt around 40 A.D. and the world’s first Christian University was in Egypt. Moreover, several of the early church’s most influential theological councils were held on Egyptian soil.
2. Secondly, there is no mention whatsoever in the Bible of Ham, Canaan, or any people having their skin turned Black or dark because of a curse. In fact, in many of the Biblical theophanies, when God appears in the form of a man, he is depicted as having dark skin. Daniel 10:6 and Revelations 1:15 both describe his body parts as appearing like “burnished bronze.”
The Bible warns us in Proverbs 30:5-6 not to add to Scripture:
“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.’’
Though the so-called Hamitic Theory never appeared in the Bible, White racists made up all sorts of accusations and curses against Ham and Black people and told the slaves those things were in the Bible, thereby “adding to God’s words.’’ Just as the Bible promises, the truth of Scripture shields Blacks from these falsehoods and proves the racists to be liars.
3. Thirdly, Canaan, Noah’s grandson, was cursed because it was he, not Ham, who acted improperly. The Bible says Ham, “saw the nakedness of his father.’’ In the Bible, the term “father’s nakedness’’ refers to sexual intercourse. This is proven by many Biblical passages. For instance, Leviticus 18:8 says, “the nakedness of your father’s wife shall you not uncover: it is your father’s nakedness.’’ In Leviticus 20:11 we are told “the man that lies with his father’s wife has uncovered his father’s nakedness.’’ These verses make it very clear that if you have sex with your father’s wife (your mother or stepmother), you have uncovered your father’s nakedness. So when the Bible says Ham saw his father’s nakedness, it’s saying he saw Noah’s wife engaged in sex. But with whom? The answer tells us why Noah cursed Canaan instead of Ham: Canaan raped Noah’s wife, who was Ham’s mother and Canaan’s grandmother. That is why Ham was never cursed, because he did nothing wrong; he was merely a witness. That is also why Shem and Japheth took such great pains not to see their father’s nakedness (Noah’s wife in such a vulnerable state) and walked backwards and turned their faces away.
4. God limits curses to three or four generations. This is according to Exodus 20:5, Exodus 34:7, Numbers 14:18 and Deuteronomy 5:9:
“I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.’’ (Exodus 20:5, NKJV)
A Biblical generation is 40 to 100 years, so the curse on Canaan would have lasted 400 years at the most. So while it’s clearly not applicable to all Blacks, even if it were, the curse would have ended thousands of years before the enslavement of Blacks in the Americas. Many Biblical scholars believe the curse on Canaan was fulfilled when the Israelites conquered the descendants of Canaan and took “The Promised Land’’ from them. Perhaps, but that occurred roughly 1,000 years after Noah cursed Canaan, which would not seem to line up with the Scriptures listed above. It is important to let the Bible interpret the Bible and not to enforce our cultural or prejudiced views onto the Scripture.
5. Once people who are cursed for disobedience repent and turn to God, the curse is lifted. Exodus 20:6 says God shows “mercy to thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.’’ This was clearly the case with the Canaanites, as many of them played key roles in the plan of God. For instance, of the four women besides Mary mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1, three are believed to have been Canaanites (Tamar, Rahab and Bathsheba). That obviously means that Jesus Christ had Canaanite blood in him. Beyond that, the legendary priest-king Melchizedek is regarded by virtually all Bible scholars as a Canaanite. Melchizedek was the king of Salem, a Canaanite territory, and in both Genesis 14:18 and Hebrews 7:3, he is called a “priest of the most high God.’’ Melchizedek was so righteous that Abraham paid tithes to him, and Jesus, in Hebrews 6:20, is called a “high priest after the order of Melchizedek.’’ Some scholars believe Melchizedek was the preincarnate Christ. Either way, it is undeniable that this Canaanite man played a major role in God’s plan of salvation and was regarded as an incomparable “King of Righteousness and Peace’’ (Hebrews 7:2).
THE MARK OF CAIN
This lie claims to be based on the story of Cain in Genesis 4:1-16. Scripture tells us that after Cain slew his brother Abel, God cursed him and put a mark on him (vs 11, 15). Though the Bible says nothing about the mark being a change of skin color, White racists said the mark was black skin and that all Blacks descended from Cain.
Again, let’s go to the Word of God, where we find that the “Mark of Cain’’ theory has no credence whatsoever. First of all, according to the Bible, God placed Adam and Eve, and hence Cain and Abel, in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 2 gives strong evidence that the Garden was in Africa, for the words Pison and Gihon are used to describe its location. The Pison is the Blue Nile River and the Gihon is the White Nile River. Both are in Africa. Furthermore, verse 13 says the Gihon “encompasses the whole land of Ethiopia.’’ Another part of the Garden was Havilah (v 11). In Genesis 10:7, Havilah is associated with Cush, another name for Ethiopia. Of course, in addition to the Biblical evidence, archeology, anthropology and biology all support the notion that human life began in Africa. That being the case, Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel were Black from the start, meaning Cain’s skin could not have been turned black.
Secondly, while it is certainly not our contention that White skin is a curse, the only Biblical references to one’s skin color being changed due to sin or sickness are when skin is turned “white as snow’’ due to leprosy (Numbers 12:10, 2 Kings 5:27). Again, we don’t say this to suggest that White people are cursed or that the mark placed on Cain was white skin; we say it to further demolish the notion that black skin is a curse.
THE NEW HAMITIC THEORY
The “New Hamitic Theory” was not one of the lies taught to Blacks during slavery. It is a much more recent idea. Still, it is a lie created to rob Blacks of their Biblical and historical heritage.
Early in the 19th century, archeologists began to make new discoveries about the wisdom and greatness of ancient Egypt. In light of these discoveries, White racists found it hard to justify the enslavement of Blacks on the basis of mental and cultural inferiority; for how could one claim that Blacks were inferior with the Hamitic nation of Egypt standing tall as a shining example of Black achievement. Therefore, in order to continue promoting the notion of Black inferiority, racists created the “New Hamitic Theory.’’
This theory, which completely disregards the Biblical, historical and archeological record, says Ham and his descendants were White instead of Black. Never mind that scholars have long asserted that the name Ham actually means “hot’’ or “black,’’ or that Africa was often called “the land of Ham’’ in antiquity. Believing that Ham’s accomplishments were too great to be credited to Blacks, some Whites tried to claim them for their own.
This is still going on today, but the evidence that the Egyptians were Black - from how the Egyptians depicted themselves to the eyewitness accounts of ancient historians - is overwhelming. For instance, Herodotus, a 5th century B.C. Greek historian who is known as “The Father of History,’’ as well as the famed Aristotle, both claimed that the ancient Egyptians were Black.
While some Whites have meant well and adopted the “New Hamitic Theory’’ as a way to distance the Black race from any supposed curse (i.e. the old “Hamitic Theory’’), the fact is it does not stand up to historical, archeological or Biblical scrutiny and only serves to further distort Black history.
The “Hamitic Theory,’’ the “Mark of Cain’’ and the “New Hamitic Theory’’ are all lies; lies told to keep Black people from reaching their full potential in God. We hope the Biblical proof - plus common sense, decency and the historical, archeological and biological record - will convince Whites that Blacks are not cursed but rather their brothers, sisters and equals. But regardless of what Whites believe, Blacks themselves must place God’s truth above man’s lies and wholeheartedly reject these falsehoods and the negative strongholds and mentalities they create. For only when Blacks, from the darkest to the lightest, recognize that they are “fearfully and wonderfully made’’ (Psalm 139:14) and “created in God’s image’’ (James 3:9), will they become all God has created them to be